The raging political war between the BJP and the Congress over the allocation of coal blocks (aka Coalgate) has taken its first legal twist. BJP President Nitin Gadkari today sent a legal notice to outspoken Congress General Secretary Digvijaya Singh for "deliberately and recklessly" making "false and defamatory allegations” against him on the coal scam.
The Congress General Secretary, while defending Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the UPA government on the coal scam, had on several occasions alleged Gadkari's complicity by calling him a business partner of Ajay Sancheti, a Rajya Sabha BJP MP, and one of the coal block allottees. Digvijaya alleged that they had earned profits worth Rs 490 crore from coal mines in Chhattisgarh.
Sources said Gadkari’s decision to send a legal notice to Digvijaya had the endorsement of the BJP Core Committee, which met on Thursday night. The notice was sent through his advocate Balendu Shekher on Friday morning.
Excerpts from Hindustan Times, Danik Jagran, Tehelka and other publications have been quoted to make a case for initiating legal action. The legal notice asks the Congress general secretary to “issue a public apology and withdraw your defamatory statements within three days of receipt of this legal notice, failing which my client will be constrained to take appropriate legal action against you, including prosecuting you for criminal defamation at your risk, cost and consequences.”
Given the fact that Digvijaya has been relentless and vociferous in his attacks against the BJP chief in the past, he is unlikely to issue an apology. The matter could eventually end up in a prolonged legal battle.
Gadkari had been abroad on a family holiday when Digvijaya personally targeted him. This was one of the first issues the BJP president decided to act on after his return. “The wild and concocted allegations made by you..are completely concocted, defamatory, scandalous and un-parliamentary and have maligned the image of my client”, the legal notice said.
At the Core Group meeting headed by Gadkari, the BJP also decided to launch a nationwide agitation from 17 September demanding Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's resignation on Coalgate, the cancellation of coal blocks and an impartial probe by a Supreme Court-monitored Special Investigation Team (SIT). The hike in diesel prices has only added “diesel to the coal fire”, a BJP leader said.
BJP leaders will lead party workers in a march to the respective Raj Bhavans in various state capitals as part of the agitation called "Raj Bhavan Chalo". They will submit a memorandum to the governors on their demands. Party workers at the district level will carry out similar marches to the district collector's office.
The BJP is bent on keeping the issue alive during the coming assembly elections of Gujarat and Himachal. The results of these elections will set the tone for the winter session of Parliament.